Preparing for COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution
On December 14, 2020, the state of Ohio began administering the first COVID-19 vaccinations to health care workers. Ohio has indicated it will use a 3-4 phase distribution plan to get the vaccine to critical populations, including to those who are in emergency shelters and those who are unsheltered.

The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing (COHHIO) is participating in the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) COVID-19 Vaccination Priority Populations Workgroup, representing critical populations as part of ongoing vaccine distribution planning. In this role, COHHIO will continue to advocate for the needs of the people in our homeless systems as well as the needs of program staff.

Vaccine Distribution to People Experiencing Homelessness and Program Staff
Currently, people residing in emergency shelters, staff of those shelters, and people experiencing unsheltered homelessness have been included in Phase 2 of Ohio’s vaccine distribution plan. It is also worth noting that people with comorbid and underlying conditions are also included in Phase 2 of the plan, and this group could potentially include people experiencing homelessness and residing in places other than emergency shelters.

The timeline for Phase 2 vaccine distribution is not known at this time. However, COHHIO will continue to update Ohio providers throughout the planning process.

The following sections outline what homeless assistance providers can begin to focus on now in order to ensure a successful vaccination campaign for people experiencing homelessness in their communities. 

Communicate with Local Health Departments
Local health departments (LHDs) will manage vaccine distribution in their communities, including to Phase 2 populations. Therefore, it is critical that homeless assistance providers initiate and/or maintain contact with LHDs now. When communicating with LHDs at this point, be sure to address the following:

  • Make sure the LHD understands the importance of getting vaccinations to people experiencing homelessness, including those residing in shelters and those in unsheltered locations
  • Begin conversations with LHDs about how people experiencing unsheltered homelessness may be identified and supported to access vaccines
  • Advocate to your LHD that once the vaccine is available, it should be administered to clients ON-SITE at your local emergency shelters
  • Identify the total number of CLIENTS and STAFF who will likely need the vaccine once available, and communicate this to LHDs.
  • For some communities, it may be most efficient to identify one provider to represent the provider community in communicating with the LHD about vaccine distribution planning

Develop a Messaging Campaign
Begin to promote, to both clients and staff, the importance of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19. This could include developing internal messaging plans for use with clients and posting educational materials about the COVID-19 vaccine

Partner with consumer groups or consumer representatives to discuss effective messaging/communication approaches and identify any needed supports

What is Coming Next:

Tracking Vaccinations
The COVID-19 vaccines currently must be administered in multiple doses, with 3-4 weeks between doses. Tracking who has received a first dose and needs a second dose will be key to a successful vaccination campaign, but also one of the most challenging aspects

Speak with your CoC about how to potentially use HMIS to track vaccine doses and distribution. Reach out to COHHIO for any questions regarding tracking

Additional Resources
As more information about COVID-19 vaccine distribution becomes available COHHIO will work to develop a webinar and provide additional guidance

In the meantime, providers can find helpful resources here:

Questions can be directed to Douglas Argue, at